Flashback Friday: Dowsing

Could 40-year-old evidence for dowsing suggest that the “occult” is real?
Flashback Friday: Dowsing
Bettmann Archive

From the “Planet” section of the July, 1980 issue of High Times comes an interesting take on the practice of dowsing.

Dowsing—the art of locating underground water—has been vindicated as an applied science, after thousands of years of hotly condemned, albeit successful, practice. The secret of the dowsing procedure doesn’t lie in the Y-shaped sprig of wood held by the operator, it turns out, but in the body of the dowser. Recent research suggests that special cells in the adrenal and pituitary glands of at least some humans are sensitive to changes in the local electromagnetic flux of the earth and atmosphere; when the electromagnetic field changes, as it does in the vicinity of underground water deposits, these glands seem to subtly alter a sensitive individual’s blood pressure. A slight congestion of blood in the capillaries of a dowser’s fingertips, it’s speculated, may account for the characteristic vibration of the dowser’s stick over a subterranean water deposit.

The sensitivity of animals to electromagnetism accounts for bird migration and other such behavior. Recently scientists have isolated in pigeons cells containing metallic substances that respond to electromagnetic flux. Birds are sensitive to the electromagnetism emitted by radio and television waves, thunderstorms, rushing or bubbling water, air currents, radioactive minerals and seasonal alterations in the tilt of the earth’s axis. To determine whether humans may share some of these physical systems with lower animals, researchers [in Alexandria, Virginia] have been working with dowsers.

U.S. Army researcher Dr. Zaboj Harvalik enlisted the world’s top professional dowser, Ruttenmeister Wilhelm DeBoer of Bremen, West Germany, for the study. After observing that DeBoer could ordinarily zero in on deposits of underground water with amazing consistency, Dr. Harvalik tried wrapping parts of the dowser’s body with strips of aluminum sheeting that would theoretically block any magnetic impulses. It turned out that when he insulated the areas around the pituitary and the kidneys (site of the adrenal glands), DeBoer’s dowsing stick no longer quivered over hidden water. This strongly suggests that those cells sensitive to magnetism are part of the adrenocorticotrophic system—a primitive arrangement of glands and nerves that is nearly identical in birds and mammals.

By setting up a test environment of various electromagnetic states, Dr. Harvalik recorded the varying sensitivity of dowsers and ordinary individuals. Ruttenmeister DeBoer, for example, could dependably detect microampere fluctuations down to a fantastic 10 -12 gauss (making him far more sensitive than advanced laboratory magnetometers), and even nondowsers often reacted to fluctuations as fine as one-half a milliamp. Furthermore, when nondowsers were advised that they were reacting to these imperceptible changes, they typically got more sensitive to them in further tests. It turned out that by drinking a tumbler of water—and thereby presumably priming one’s kidneys—a test subject increased his or her sensitivity to electromagnetic flux.

DeBoer, according to Harvalik, reacts to a spectrum of electromagnetic alterations ranging from one to one million hertz (cycles per second). If this sensitivity is latent in everyone, it means that the human body is much more sensitive to natural phenomena than previously believed. We may, without being consciously aware of it, be picking up mesons, quarks or even tachyons—particles believed to pass backwards through time, carrying, perhaps, intuitions of the future.

Featured image credit: Bettmann Archive.

1 comment
  1. I feel like im stuck in a loop, am i high or does this web site go on forever. Cat purr in my ear ahhhh

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